National Roundup

Minnesota

Girlfriend of fallen auto mogul to remain jailed

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- The girlfriend of convicted auto mogul Dennis Hecker has waived her detention hearing and will remain behind bars.

Christi Rowan will stay in the Sherburne County jailed until she's sentenced next week. Rowan's detention hearing was scheduled Wednesday in federal court.

She was arrested a week ago after visiting Hecker in jail. KARE-TV says Rowan violated terms of her release from custody by withdrawing thousands of dollars from Hecker's bank account and cashing dividend checks from Hecker's stocks.

Hecker is serving a 10-year federal prison sentence for conspiracy and bankruptcy fraud.

New York

Jury in trial of Mass. men to stay anonymous

NEW YORK (AP) -- A federal judge has ruled that the jury in the trial of two Springfield area brothers and another man accused of involvement in the killing of Springfield's mob boss in 2003 will be allowed to stay anonymous.

The judge in federal court in New York ruled Tuesday that the jurors will stay anonymous despite objections from attorneys for alleged mob enforcers Fotios "Freddy" Geas, of West Springfield, and his younger brother, Ty Geas, of Westfield.

The Republican of Springfield reports that defense attorneys argued that allowing the jury to remain anonymous makes their clients seem more important and powerful than they actually are.

The Geases and Arthur Nigro are charged in connection with the 2003 murder-for-hire of Springfield mob boss Adolfo "Big Al" Bruno, as well as other alleged crimes.

Illinois

Court: Student has right to wear anti-gay shirt

CHICAGO (AP) -- An appeals court has upheld the rights of suburban Chicago students to wear T-shirts with the words "Be Happy, Not Gay."

The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals' ruling Tuesday involves a dispute at Neuqua (NEE'-kwah) Valley High School. A teen sued in 2006 after school officials blacked out the words "Not Gay" on her T-shirt. The incident happened the day after a "Day of Silence," which was held to draw attention to the harassment of gay students.

The court says a school that "permits advocacy of the rights of homosexual students cannot be allowed to stifle criticism of homosexuality."

The decision says the school was wrong unless it could prove the shirt would cause a "substantial disruption."

The president of the district's board declined to comment on the ruling.

Nebraska

Verdict against University of Nebraska overturned

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) -- A federal judge has ordered a new trial in a retaliation lawsuit against the University of Nebraska.

According to the Lincoln Journal Star, U.S. District Judge Richard Kopf says the original verdict and damages award were the products "of passion and prejudice."

In its December verdict, the jury said the university and one of its professors didn't discriminate against Christy Carlson. But the jury awarded her $280,000 in damages for retaliation.

The university appealed and won.

Carlson was a climatologist at the university's High Plains Regional Climate Center. In 2008 she sued its former director, Ken Hubbard, and the university's Board of Regents. She said Hubbard treated her differently from how he treated her male co-workers. She also alleged he retaliated after she challenged how some funding was being allocated.

Iowa

Former Waterloo teacher wants charges dropped

WATERLOO, Iowa (AP) -- A former Waterloo teacher accused of having a 17-year-old student shower in chocolate syrup and play strip video games is trying to have the case dismissed.

Fifty-three-year-old Larry Twigg is charged with six misdemeanor counts of lascivious conduct with a minor.

According to the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier, Twigg's attorney last month asked for the dismissal, saying a mental health evaluation showed Twigg didn't have the general intent to commit the crime.

Attorney James Metcalf also said in court records that it's expected the psychiatrist hired by the state will offer an opinion that Twigg's acts weren't sexually motivated. Iowa law says the offense requires that the act is done to arouse or satisfy a sexual desire.

Twigg was arrested in February 2010 and lost his job in March.

Illinois

State circuit judges must undergo evaluations

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) -- Illinois circuit judges are being required to undergo evaluations meant to help them spot and fix any problems in their performance.

The state Supreme Court announced the mandatory evaluations Tuesday. Chief Justice Thomas Kilbride says the move is about "making a good judiciary even better."

The evaluations apply to circuit and associate judges who have been on the bench more than two years but less than 25. Judges will be chosen randomly to undergo evaluations each year.

Officials say 100 to 125 judges will take part in the first year.

The results will be shared between the judge and someone trained in helping them improve.

Mississippi

Appeals Court upholds conviction in triple slaying

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) -- The state Court of Appeals on Tuesday upheld the 2009 conviction of Eric DeShawn Jackson.

Jackson is serving a life sentence for his conviction in Warren County in the 2008 deaths of a pregnant mother, her unborn child and a man.

Prosecutors said the slayings occurred after a dispute over a video game.

Jackson was convicted of three counts of murder by depraved heart in the shooting deaths of 25-year-old Denise Jackson, her unborn baby boy and 25-year-old Preston Qualls.

Prosecutors say Jackson left the home after the video game dispute but later returned and opened fire outside the home with an AK-47.

The Appeals Court rejected Jackson's claims that prosecutors didn't prove his guilt.

Published: Thu, Mar 3, 2011

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